IRISH LEAGUE: Sykes scores injury-time equaliser as Glenavon draw with Portadown

Mark Carson celebrates breaking the deadlock at Shamrock Park for Portadown against Glenavon. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Mark Carson celebrates breaking the deadlock at Shamrock Park for Portadown against Glenavon. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Mark Sykes’ injury-time free-kick left Glenavon with a dramatic point at Shamrock Park as the visitors battled back from 2-0 down to rescue a draw and prevent Portadown from picking up a major boost in the battle against relegation.

The Ports - bolstered by the previous weekend’s derby delight over Dungannon Swifts - started at pace, with Mark McAllister hooking a shot wide with his back to goal.

McAllister then delivered a low cross towards the unmarked Aaron Haire but Caolan Marron’s sliding block cut out the threat.

Guy Bates’ glancing header lacked the power to trouble Ports goalkeeper Chris McGaughey then Glenavon enjoyed a series of corner-kicks but failed to take advantage of the brief pressure.

A key moment arrived on 24 minutes as McAllister’s touch of class cut open the visitors’ backline with a measured pass and Mark Carson displayed the determination to meet the ball and force home under pressure.

Glenavon attacked in search of an equaliser and Bates’ clever footwork helped him create space but McGaughey raced out to smother the near-post attempt.

A strong run by Rhys Marshall from deep ended with Bates clipping a cross into the danger area but Sykes’ flicked header was stopped by McGaughey.

Sykes released Marshall along the right early in the second half and the full-back’s low cross evaded a number of players before Ciaran Martyn’s shot was blocked.

Portadown doubled the lead on 49 minutes as Stephen Hughes’ pass forward was slotted home by Haire from outside the box after great strength to hold off Marron.

The hosts had two Ferris brothers on the substitutes’ bench - 15-year-old Callum and his older sibling, Nathaniel, with the latter presented two sights of goal within seconds of joining play.

However, a Glenavon substitute enjoyed the greater impact when, on 77 minutes, Andy McGrory raced along the right and delivered a cross powered home by Martyn on the run.

McAllister worked an opening soon after but his low drive proved the wrong side of the upright.

Jonny Tuffey produced two saves in quick succession off Hughes and Garrett.

The final twist arrived when Sykes’ free-kick delivery from deep somehow managed to bounce past everyone and into the top corner of the net.

PORTADOWN: Chris McGaughey, Mark Carson, Alan Byrne, Garry Breen, Matthew Parker, Niall Henderson, Robert Garrett, Brendan Shannon, Stephen Hughes, Mark McAllister, Aaron Haire. Subs: Connor Larkin, Ross Larkin, Luke Wilson, Nathaniel Ferris (Haire, 74), Callum Ferris.

GLENAVON: Jonathan Tuffey, Rhys Marshall, Joel Cooper, Andrew Hall, Mark Sykes, Caolan Marron, Greg Moorhouse, Ciaran Martyn, David Elebert, James Singleton, Guy Bates. Subs: Kyle Neill, Simon Kelly, Mark Patton (Cooper, 15), Andy McGrory (Hall, 73), Kevin Braniff (Moorhouse, 62).

Referee: Raymond Crangle.